The Forty-Fourth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held from 15-17 February 2023. Chair of the Conference, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Rt Honourable Philip Davis presided over the proceedings.
Other Members of the Conference in attendance were: Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Honourable Gaston Browne; Prime Minister of Barbados, Honourable Mia Amor Mottley; Prime Minister of Belize, Honourable John Briceño; Prime Minister of Dominica, Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit; Prime Minister of Grenada, Honourable Dickon Mitchell; President of Guyana, His Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali; Prime Minister of Haiti, the Honourable Ariel Henry; Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness; Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, the Honourable Dr Terrence Drew; Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Honourable Philip Pierre; the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves and the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley.
Suriname was represented by the Honourable Albert Ramdin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Co-operation.
Associate Members in attendance were: Bermuda represented by Hon. Walter H. Roban Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs; British Virgin Islands represented by Premier, Honourable Dr. Natalio Wheatley; and the Turks and Caicos Islands represented by Premier Honourable Charles Misick.
The Opening Ceremony was addressed by the Chair of the Conference; the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis; the President of Suriname as well as the CARICOM Secretary-General. The President of Suriname, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi, outgoing Chair of the Community, addressed the Ceremony virtually.
The speakers each made reference to the ongoing situation in Haiti and the challenges faced by Member States. They also spoke to the 50th Anniversary of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to be celebrated later this year.
In her address, in speaking of the 50th Anniversary of the Community, the Secretary-General noted that “milestones generally mark achievements, not merely the passage of time.”
She added that “this is the year when we commemorate the vision created, the courage had, and the legacy left by those who went before us. It is the year when we renew our commitment to the Community and enrich this unique legacy for those who will follow us.”
The Secretary-General pointed out that the Meeting’s decisions on issues such as Climate Change, Food Security, and Community Governance would have a lasting and positive effect on the Region over the next fifty years.
In his address, the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis said he viewed the Region as a single space for our people to live, engage in robust economic activity and advance its economic, social and cultural prospects.
He said the Community remained an effective forum for its members to carve out a space for dialogue in the international community to “seriously address the structural challenges we face as small island developing states.” He cited intra-regional transportation as a pressing challenge.
“The time has come for the international financial institutions to take positive action to address the realities we face and enable us not only to recover from national disasters but adapt to the existential threat of climate change by building stronger, more resilient communities to benefit the lives of our people,” he added.
In his address, the President of Suriname stated that over the years, the Region had taken significant steps, in creating a solid integration movement.
He added that “The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which provided, among other things, for enhanced cooperation among Member States, bears testimony, to our resolve, to work collaboratively, towards one goal – sustainable development of the Region.”
We have shown, he said, that we would overcome the challenges, confronting us, with the determination and creativity, inherent to the Caribbean peoples.
In his address, the Chair observed that CARICOM and The Commonwealth of the Bahamas were both celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversaries. He noted that “In this joint celebration of the 50th Anniversary of our Independence, and the 50th Anniversary of the founding of CARICOM, in a very real way, there is a deep understanding and pride to have come this far.”
The Chair pointed out that a shared history, steeped in triumph and struggle, was testament to the resilience and determination of both The Bahamas and CARICOM.
The Prime Minister emphasised that in order to make lasting progress, Member States should pursue their national interest within the framework of the interests of the Community.
“None of us will be safe until we are all safe. None of us will develop sustainably or securely, if we leave our neighbours behind. None of us will truly prosper if our resources are forever taxed by the poverty and instability of those nearby. Going it alone will not work” he stressed.
Full texts of the statements are available at www.caricom.org and http://hgc.caricom.org/
During the Opening Ceremony, the CARICOM Triennial Award for Women was conferred upon Dame Janet Bostwick of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas for her advocacy and actions to bring parity to the status of women and remove the inequities faced by women throughout The Bahamas and the Region.
COVID-19 AND OTHER EMERGING HEALTH ISSUES
Heads of Government received an update from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) which emphasised the need for a comprehensive response to COVID-19, Mpox and other regional health security threats. These include the re-emerging threat of Zika, the ongoing threat of Dengue, other Vector borne diseases, the low vaccine uptake, and the associated challenges of the regular expanded programme of immunisation.
Heads of Government noted reports of the low receipt of surveillance data from Member States which could stymie early detection and response to threats to the Region. They urged Member States to remain vigilant and continue to carry out active surveillance and promote the use of established prevention and control guidelines to curb further spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
They recognised the need to allocate adequate resources for Vector Control Programmes to curtail the spread of Zika in the Region.
They agreed to support CARPHA’s Vaccine Campaign launch to improve COVID-19 vaccination levels and the regular expanded programme of immunisation activities.
Heads of Government welcomed the establishment by the World Bank of the Pandemic Fund which will finance critical investments to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response capacities at national, regional, and global levels, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries. Member States were encouraged strongly to submit Expressions of Interest to access the Fund in the first round of the process.
Heads of Government congratulated the Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr Joy St John, on being named as Vice Chair of the Technical Advisory Panel of the Pandemic Fund Board.
Heads of Government expressed concern at the continuing prevalence of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases and stressed the importance of sustained efforts to address it.
CARICOM SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY (CSME)
Heads of Government received an update from the Prime Minister of Barbados as Lead Head of Government on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), on progress in the implementation of the CSME.
They agreed that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas would be amended to provide for the regulation of mergers and acquisitions in the CSME on the basis of an approved Community Policy.
Heads of Government also agreed that Member States should complete their internal consultations and approval processes on the Draft Policy on Mergers and Acquisitions in the CSME to enable the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) to consider and approve the Policy in April 2023.
Heads of Government discussed the progress towards completing the Draft Policy on a Regional Capital Market. They called upon the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP) and the Legal Affairs Committee to take the necessary action to ensure that the infrastructure for the regional capital market is largely in place within eighteen (18) months.
Heads of Government were presented with an update on the process towards establishing a dual role for the CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) at national and regional levels.
Heads of Government endorsed the decision of the COFAP to amend the Intra-CARICOM Double Taxation Agreement (ICDTA), through a Protocol on Treaty Shopping and Exchange of Information. They urged Member States to support the work of a Joint Committee of Finance, Tax and Legal Affairs officials, so that the Protocol could be ready for signature at the Regular Meeting of the Conference in July 2023.
ADVANCING THE CARICOM AGRI-FOOD SYSTEMS AGENDA
Heads of Government received an update on the progress made by the CARICOM Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security (MTF) and endorsed its priority activities for 2023.
They commended the Lead Head of Government with responsibility for Agriculture and Agriculture Development in the Quasi-Cabinet, His Excellency Mohammed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana, for his leadership on the Agri-food systems agenda.
Heads of Government supported the project proposal entitled “Building Food Security through Innovation, Resilience, Sustainability and Empowerment”, as presented by President Ali, and accepted the pledge of US$2M from Guyana towards financing and implementing this project.
They mandated the MTF to oversee the mobilisation of resources for the project and its implementation.
Heads of Government requested the CARICOM Secretariat to accelerate its efforts in the mobilization of resources towards the achievement of the 25 by 2025 initiative.
They also requested the CARICOM Private Sector Organization Inc. (CPSO) to hasten the pace of implementation of their various agricultural investment projects.
BRIDGETOWN INITIATIVE FOR THE REFORM OF THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL ARCHITECTURE
Heads of Government recognised the need for measures to improve the functioning of the global financial system, particularly in the context of the numerous crises adversely affecting the Community and which put Middle Income Countries at real risk for reversal of economic gains and descent into impoverishment.
These crises include the climate crisis, debt, food and water insecurity, the digital divide, health pandemics and Anti Microbial Resistance, as well as threats to biodiversity.
Heads of Government recognised that the impact of Climate Change and other exogenous shocks were having a debilitating effect on Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States (SIDS) as well as other vulnerable developing countries, and that there was an urgent need to provide macro-economic security, resilience and sustainability for our countries.
They also noted that the current global system was designed at a time when our countries had no influence and in an era when the challenges were different from those that existed today.
Heads of Government agreed that the time had come to work collectively for a restructuring of the global financial architecture to respond to the existential threats facing SIDS and other developing countries.
They also agreed that The Bridgetown Initiative was a viable model to build on with respect to the reform of the global financial system.
Heads of Government agreed to advocate for the Initiative to be included on the agenda for COP28 in the United Arab Emirates later this year.
Heads of Government welcomed and indicated their full support for the global Summit proposed by the Prime Minister of Barbados and the President of France on a “New Global Financial Pact”, to be held in Paris in June 2023.
CLIMATE CHANGE/CLIMATE FINANCE
Heads of Government expressed their disappointment that the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (COP 27) held at Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, did not deliver on its headline agenda of implementation, rather it ended with only weak climate finance and mitigation outcomes.
Heads of Government commended the outstanding leadership from CARICOM and Antigua and Barbuda as Chair of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), in achieving a decision to establish a Loss and Damage fund. Although welcoming the step forward, they noted that what will be delivered depended on the follow through of the process to resource and access the Fund.
They agreed to conduct high-level political advocacy amongst major economies to encourage greater ambition to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
They also advocated for targeted support for CARICOM Member States to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and adaptation plans as well as to support the just transitions for Member States.
Heads of Government requested the Council of Finance and Planning (COFAP) to ensure that the efforts underway at the global level, take account of the special circumstances of Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States (SIDs) as well as the urgency of access to grant and concessional financing.
Having regard to the Bridgetown Initiative, they also requested the COFAP to factor these efforts into the deliberations on the reform of the international financial institutions ahead of Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group, thereby developing a Regional approach to be approved by the Heads of Government.
Heads of Government further agreed to advocate for systemic approaches for debt relief for CARICOM Member States in the context of unlocking new sources of finance for climate action and sustainable development, including for robust work on vulnerability indices.
Noting the detailed negotiating agenda ahead en route to COP 28, they called on the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), and the CARICOM Secretariat to present a Work Plan for the approval of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) at their meeting in April 2023. This would prepare Member States to engage effectively in the climate negotiations process, and advance the Regions’ interests for high ambition, predictable and sustained support, and global cooperation for implementation.
Heads of Government also agreed to present Oceans as a subject matter on the Agenda of COP 28.
They further mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to work with the UNFCCC Secretariat to complete the Needs-based Finance Assessment for the Region to adequately quantify the cost of implementation.
UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL TOURISM RESILIENCE DAY
Heads of Government welcomed the successful adoption of a UN resolution on Global Tourism Resilience Day, to be recognised annually on 17 February.
They commended Jamaica on the initiative which underscored the critical role of tourism in driving post-pandemic economic and social recovery.
They recognised the role of CARICOM countries in particular The Bahamas and Guyana in obtaining international consensus on the recognition of Global Tourism Resilience Day.
CARICOM 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Heads of Government acknowledged that a 50th Anniversary was a very special occasion for any organisation.
They reflected that for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), marking the occasion should have a dual purpose. First, it should be a time for Review, Reflection, Reform and Renewal, in terms of looking back at the last fifty years and strategizing for the next fifty. Second, it should serve as an opportunity for the entire Community to celebrate in recognition of the achievements to date.
In that regard Heads of Government considered proposals for the CARICOM Fiftieth Anniversary Celebrations and agreed on the need to develop and implement activities at the national and regional levels in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of CARICOM.
UWI 75th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Heads of Government noted the presentation by the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies on plans to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the University of the West Indies.
Heads of Government reiterated their call for the lifting of the unjust financial, economic and trade embargo against the Government and people of Cuba.
ENGAGEMENT WITH SPECIAL GUEST(S)
The Prime Minister of Canada, The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, PC, MP
Heads of Government received the Prime Minister of Canada, The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, PC, MP. They welcomed the efforts by Prime Minister Trudeau to strengthen and deepen the special relationship between CARICOM and Canada.
They also welcomed his offer of charting new strategic partnerships, built on modern realities,
including the diversification of the economic relationships and addressing climate change and doing both in ways that would create good jobs in all the countries.
They welcomed the announcement of financial support to address climate change and illicit trafficking in the Region, the humanitarian and migration crises on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border.
Heads of Government further welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that Canada would be requesting a waiver from the World Trade Organization for the continuation of CARIBCAN.
Both parties noted that stability in the region was necessary to engender prosperity and expressed their concern about the ongoing unrest and instability in Haiti. They acknowledged that CARICOM, Canada and international partners must work together to help Haitians bring an end to the crisis and build a better, and more hopeful, future for their country.
Both parties acknowledged the importance of regular interactions at the highest political level. In this regard, Heads of Government welcomed the proposal by Prime Minister Trudeau for a CARICOM-Canada Summit in the latter part of the year.
African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank)
Heads of Government welcomed The President and Chairman, African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank), Prof. Benedict Okey Oramah.
Heads of Government took note of the wide range of services offered and facilitated by the Bank given its complementarity with the development goals of the Community.
They took the opportunity to thank the Bank for its role in assisting Member States in securing critical supplies of COVID-19 vaccines through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).
Heads of Government noted the Partnership Agreement between the Member States of the Caribbean Community and Afreximbank which establishes a framework for cooperation towards strengthening trade and investment links between Africa and CARICOM Member States. They called upon those Member States which have not yet signed and/or ratified the Partnership Agreement with the Bank to do so at the earliest opportunity.
Heads of Government welcomed the offer from Afreximbank to finance a feasibility study on the establishment of Caribbean Exim Bank.
Heads of Government acknowledged the collaboration between CARICOM Central Bank Governors and Afreximbank to explore the feasibility of introducing the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) as a platform for intra-regional payments in the Caribbean
Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Heads of Government welcomed the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and reaffirmed the commitment of CARICOM countries, as small economies, to a rules-based multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core, which takes account of the development challenges and objectives of developing states.
In that regard they had a focused exchange with the WTO Director-General during which they underscored the importance of completing negotiations towards a comprehensive and effective agreement on fisheries subsidies and the need for open, transparent and effective negotiations on agricultural trade reform.
Heads of Government emphasised the Community’s commitment to work towards WTO reform that could lead to improved functioning of the Organisation including a fully functioning dispute settlement mechanism for the benefit of all of its Members.
Heads of Government received a virtual presentation from the President of the Ukraine, His Excellency Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Chairman welcomed the President’s remarks and expressed the hope for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict.
Heads of Government mandated that the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE) and the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) meet to prepare for a Special Symposium to consider Crime as a Public Health Concern which is to be hosted by Trinidad and Tobago in April 2023.
Heads of Government also mandated that CARICOM Secretariat, the Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (Impacs) and the Regional Security System (RSS) to prepare a report covering the related social, economic and judicial issues required to inform the Special Symposium.
SITUATION IN HAITI
Heads of Government discussed the multi-faceted and complex crises affecting Haiti and agreed to issue a statement which is attached.
The Heads of Government received an update on the claim brought by the Republic of Guatemala against Belize in which the International Court of Justice is asked to resolve “any and all legal claims of Guatemala against Belize to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to those territories, [and] to declare the rights therein of both Parties, and to determine the boundaries between their respective territories and areas”. They were informed that Belize is expected to file its Rejoinder in June 2023.
Heads of Government were also informed of the Application filed on 16 November 2022 by Belize instituting proceedings against the Republic of Honduras with regard to a dispute concerning sovereignty over the Sapodilla Cayes in the Gulf of Honduras. The Court has fixed 2 May 2023 for Belize to submit its Memorial and 4 December 2023 for Honduras to submit its Counter-Memorial.
Heads of Government expressed concern over the deforestation of Belize’s national parks and protected areas along the Belize – Guatemala border caused by the continuing illegal incursions by Guatemalan nationals and urged both countries to abide by the Confidence Building Measures. They reiterated their support for the critical work carried out by the OAS in defusing tensions along the border and urged the international community to continue its support for the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone.
Heads of Government reiterated their unequivocal support for Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Heads of Government were updated on the case currently before the International Court of Justice for the settlement of the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela.
They noted that the Court heard oral pleadings at the Peace Palace from November 17 to 21, 2022 on preliminary objections filed by Venezuela on Guyana’s application to the Court requesting its determination on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award.
Heads of Government reiterated their full support for the ongoing judicial process and encouraged Venezuela’s full participation in the process.
Heads of Government reaffirmed their firm and unwavering support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.
UPDATE ON SITUATION IN THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Heads of Government received an update from the Premier of British Virgin Islands (BVI) on the governance situation of the BVI.
Heads of Government commended Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. Hon. Natalio D. Wheatley and his Administration for the good progress made in implementing governance reforms and firm commitment to consulting the people of the BVI in the process.
They called on the United Kingdom to remove the Order in Council in reserve to impose direct rule on the people of the BVI which is a blunt colonial instrument that has no place in democratic governance.
Heads of Government endorsed the United Nations resolution on the Question of the British Virgin Islands adopted by the 77th UN General Assembly on 12th December 2022 that, among other things reaffirmed the right of the Territory to self-determination.
They reaffirmed CARICOM’s commitment to support the BVI at the relevant United Nations fora on decolonization.
Heads of Government welcomed the upcoming General Election in the BVI that are constitutionally due by 12th May 2023.
Heads of Government acknowledged the rising cost of fuel globally. Heads of Government agreed that in the context of the bilateral relationship with the United States, to urge for the removal of the sanctions on Venezuela to allow for countries in the region to benefit from the PetroCaribe initiative and for further progress on the exploration of the cross-border natural gas fields between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
Trinidad and Tobago signed the Protocol to Amend Article 32 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy; and
the Protocol to Amend the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy to Allow for Enhanced Cooperation among Member States and to Address Related Issues
Heads of Government expressed their appreciation to the Government and People of the Bahamas for their excellent hospitality and the arrangements as hosts of the meeting.
DATE AND VENUE
The 45th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government will take place from 3-6 July in Roseau, Dominica.
CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY
Statement on Haiti
Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), at their 44th Regular Meeting in The Bahamas reiterated that the Community must play a leadership role in addressing the deteriorating situation in Haiti, a Member State of the Community, towards which there are moral and political obligations.
Heads affirmed that decisive action is needed at the earliest opportunity by CARICOM in view of the mounting insecurity and its widespread impact on all facets of Haitian life. The Heads of Government were joined in part of their discussions by the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
The Heads of Government acknowledged the adoption of the December 21, 2022 political agreement, the National Consensus for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections, launched by the Honourable Ariel Henry, the Interim Prime Minister of Haiti, but were of the view that it needed to be more inclusive. In this regard, Heads of Government agreed to convene an early meeting of stakeholders in Jamaica.
They also agreed to participate in a meeting to be convened in Haiti with Haitian stakeholders, to assist in the development of a plan to restore security and the rule of law.
The Heads of Government noted the various forms of security assistance provided by the Government of Canada and placed emphasis on strengthening the capacity of the Haitian National Police to protect the general population from criminal activities.
Finally, the Heads of Government agreed to build international partnerships in support of efforts to return Haiti to peace and stability as a necessary precursor for free, fair and credible elections.
CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY
STATEMENT ON DEVELOPMENTS IN SURINAME
CARICOM Heads of Government received a report from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation of Suriname on the ongoing disturbances in that country.
CARICOM reaffirms its support for the democratically elected Government of Suriname under the leadership of President Chandrikapersad Santokhi.
The Heads of Government took note of the unfolding situation in Suriname and strongly condemned the violent attacks on people as well as private and public facilities including the parliament. They recognized the right to freedom of expression, and the right to peaceful protest but expressed the view that there can be no excuse for the use of violence in any type of demonstration. They affirmed that these actions only serve to undermine the rule of law and the stability of democracies. Furthermore, they threaten the lives and livelihoods of our citizens and are inimical to the interest of our population.
CARICOM stands in solidarity with all law abiding citizens of Suriname and urges all concerned to make every effort to maintain public safety. All efforts must be made to restore calm as a matter of urgency.